Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No surprises please, we're old, Alexis, The Gardens

Niz had just turned the grand old age of... say, somewhere in the early-30s vicinity. The older we get, the less receptive we are to surprises, so it was decided we would congregate somewhere fuss-free, with a tried-and-tested menu where everyone knew what they would get, at Alexis at the Gardens.

Can't go wrong with Alexis' pizzas... particularly enjoy the Gambretto with rocket! This time however, I watched the others order. That evening, I was on...a liquid diet of some sort. First up... the Pizza Pollo. Meal owner was kind and spared me a slice, and even when cold, it was yummy and made me secretly hanker for more!

Others had the equally dependable Sarawak Laksa, swimming in rich, coconutty gravy. What a mega portion!

Beef Noodles arrived lukewarm. Fiz tsk-tsk'ed and sent it back to be heated thoroughly. We like our soup scalding hot, thank you very much!

Club sandwich - Cheese, chicken, avocado, beef bacon, egg and the usual garnishing. But why oh why the shoestring fries? Shoestrings spell to me skint, ungenerous, emaciated, McDs! I like mine fat and substantial!

Baby spinach and chickpea salad - a very nice filling salad, I picked off all the olives! Ish nicsh with wine

The classically bashful, but bitingly bitchy birthday boy

The sweet-toothed cried in unison at the end of the meal, so away they went. No introductions or elaboration necessary here, so I'll just post these up and siesta...

Nuff said! :-) Hope it was a happy one Niz!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fish head noodles... stop me if you've heard this one before!

OK, it's starting to seem like this is all I ever eat for weekend breakfasts but I assure you, this is not the case! I wanted to share this, simply for like-minded folks who can't be arsed fighting with the weekend morning stampede at Woo Pin or Goon Wah in the Old Klang Road area.
Had driven by and seen this banner hanging off this kopitiam along Old Klang Road, not far away across the road from 3rd Mile Square several times.

Now I don't know Cheras too well (where apparently another Woo Pin outlet presides) but I am willing to give any fish head noodles a try.

First, the essentials...

My order of non-milk, fish meat & fish paste came in a huge steaming bowl, upping the temperature in the already sauna-like atmosphere inside the shop (tip: grab one of the few tables outside if you don't want to sweat buckets)

Without milk, the Chinese wine base in the soup really shone through, nicely finished off with the piquancy of the tomatoes and preserved vegetables. The late additions of freshly fried fish meat, which stayed reasonably crisp and firm even in the soup and the hand-made fish paste scored an A!

Stout and sturdy, makes for a sprightly start to the day!

Check it out before the crowds from Tmn Desa and Kuchai start spilling over!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Forlorn but at least fed, by Mama's Kitchen, TTDI

I am a Taman Tun resident aspirant. While I continue to trudge in circles in the hunt for property, I have sadly resigned to writing off this area, given the price bracket vs the humble size of my planned loan. The conveniences and choice eating spots, the green leafiness, location and proximity to the park must be accounted for. Still, one can continue to hope. And return to eat here again and again.

I'd been poking around other food blogs' archives and read about Mama's Kitchen's in Taman Tun here and here. So one Friday evening, we arrived to check out the goods.

The place was busy busy busy! Tables were filling up as we arrived at around 7.30PM.

Claypot Lou Shu Fun - Runny yolk fever! The sight of it perks me up from my real estate despondency!

Mix everything in, the wonderful minced pork, the slices of liver, egg yolk - very important to distribute evenly top to bottom, side to side of claypot so no strand of lou shu fun is slighted. Inhale, exhale and dig in! Fragrant, fatty and moist.
Kong Nam Noodles arrived looking rather bland but the first slurp confirmed otherwise. The gravy was mildly eggy but flavourful and very tasty with the yee-mee and the interesting mix of ingredients, almost like they dumped in everything leftover in their fridge. But how has century egg ever wronged anyone? NEVER!

We also ordered the 5-piece Yong Tau Foo, arrived hot, fresh and substantial.

Great place for more than just lou shu fun! The noodle menu alone warrants another visit. Also noted with interest Claypot Brothers next door. Once again, this has got to be the best neighbourhood ever!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Meals at Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort

Having been previously less than impressed with dining options around Langkawi, we didn't hesitate to sign up for the Sheraton Beach Resort package with two meals provided daily, even if it meant we'd be eating hotel food for most of our trip.

While the food wasn't exactly mind-blowing, the breakfast & dinner spreads were extremely generous and when paired with copious amount of duty-free alcohol, there was no other way to go but overindulge.

We dined at Spice Traders the first night, perched above the water offering gorgeous views of dusk and an extremely rich, hearty Indian & Middle-Eastern themed buffet.

Our table for the night, where we gorged on foul madamas (bean dip), eridish chermoula prawn in Moroccan pesto, Machili curry fish, subz kalamirchi (vegetable stew), a very excellent tabbouleh, assorted grilled items including very fresh fish, lamb, chicken, felafels and plenty others. I took pics of our individual plates but decided that they simply do not look good enough to do the buffet justice.

I did get a shot of these delightful ice cream flavours - Spice and Rose Petal.

The Spice flavour (top) was light and refreshing, almost a sorbet, with hints of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. The Rose Petal was a richer and milkier dessert; the rose petal flavour was interesting, but I found the milk a tad overpowering.

Breakfasts at Feast, the coffee house, were equally lavish affairs and we frequently found ourselves unable to stomach lunch.

Eggs any way you want them! Really enjoyed the fluffy, puffy omelettes!

Fresh loaves of bread

Smoked fish - they alternated between mackerel and tuna. Both equally satisfying with fresh bread and Lurpak butter.

Tabbouleh & Hummus also made an appearance. Didn't think they went down well at breakfast but they WERE good!

Pancakes & waffles hot off the griddle...

...and all the condiments you can think of

The token Jap section... we didn't go near this though.

Action Station #2 fired up the grill for breakfast lamb chops, sausages, beef bacon; also dished up an addictive porridge with condiments galore.

Cakes, pastries, muffins... MEH!

The hot items changed daily - on the day I brought my camera, they had these plum grilled tomatoes

a passable roesti and many other favourites like baked beans, meatballs, fried rice. There were also fixed stations for nasi lemak section with curries and DIY noodle soup.

I think we maxed out on our annual buffet quotas in those 4 days alone. The resort is somewhat dated and certain parts could do with a spruce-up (the pool area in particular) but service was for most parts quick and affable and the meal package stuffed us silly! It's a little out of the way so you'll definitely need to hire transport but makes for a nice change in scenery from the drab Cenang strip.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Say CHEESE! at Friendly Farms, Langkawi

Langkawi the trip sped by in such a daze. One outing that we managed unaided by alcohol was the visit to the island's very own, very famous cheese-producing Friendly Farms. Due to an inherent deficiency in cheese appreciation (fine on pizzas, not on much else), all opinions on taste & quality henceforth are those of my trusted dairy-loving companions, Mei Shean and Hui Hsien.

Now, Friendly Farms isn't all that hard to get to (where is in Langkawi??), but the lack of proper signage and its ridiculous proximity to its competitor Buffalo Park can be deceiving. It's about 10 minutes away from the airport, follow bright signage to Buffalo Park - which was exactly what we did.

Buffalo Park has a huge welcoming sign up front but study the merchandise and you will find it lacking of the main thing we came looking for... mozzarella cheese! Upon prodding the reluctant staff, we found out that the place we were looking for was actually situated further down the narrow road.

Nevertheless, we did not leave empty-handed. Hui Hsien, ever the generous dairy fiend picked up a single serve of vanilla ice cream, made from fresh buffalo milk. Tasted just like the regular thing, said she.

We took the first left turn further up the road only to reach a very unassuming T-junction. Mei Shean had very wisely saved the number of Yana, the co-owner of Friendly Farms and made a call just as Yana was driving up the same narrow road. The correct direction, as it turned out, was to turn left after Buffalo Park, go up the road and take another left. And lo and behold...

...there stood the humble manor, no welcome door mat, nothing like that. Somehow, the air smelled different. Manure, yes, there was some of that. But there was also the smell of pride, of success attained through real hard work, of the triumph of the underdogs. Or maybe it was just cheese?!

Just about the ONLY promotional signage of Friendly Farms we saw on the whole flippin' island... INSIDE the farm.

Michael, the friendly proprietor was very patient, taking us through a comprehensive explanation of his produce. Neither he nor Yana apologized for the lack of signage and we got the impression that they weren't too hard up for pesky walk-in tourists and casual shoppers. They had, after all, regular orders by the kilos from the kitchens of many a five-star hotels on the island.

Busy as he was, Michael was very accommodating and offered my two hungry companions a taste of his produce. This was a soft and young goat cheese - very mild.

Michael also showcased his version of Camembert, made of goat cheese. Very subtle, could sit around a wee bit longer.

Part of the cheese stash back in the hotel. Both of them bought enough cheese to clog up the tiny fridge in our hotel room, necessitating the urgent deployment of ice buckets to chill our white wine and beer.

Back home, both savoured their collective prizes from the trip with gusto - Mozzarella by the balls. Michael had explained that the real meaning behind Mozzarella was "a thousand tiny bites" which meant that the real fresh stuff, when bitten into, should be toothsome and offer plenty of spring.

The verdict?

"Mild and pleasant on its own. But creaminess came through with the sweetness from tomatoes, fresh ground pepper, olive oil & pinch of salt"
- Mei Shean

"...chewy and rather milky but I ran out of olive oil so had to substitute with grapeseed oil which altered the taste...the texture was a tad rougher than the imported ones but nevertheless not bad for a kerbau Kedah!" - Hui Hsien

While I obviously did not get much taste-wise out of this little detour, I was bowled over by how they made cheese Langkawi's very own. Now, how about those booming schemes to realize your own crazy dreams?? Nothing is too far-fetched, anything really is possible!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Reminiscing Huế at Du Viet, Damansara Uptown

We stumbled into Du Viet after rounding the Uptown square for a bit, uninspired by the other choices in the area on a quiet Saturday evening.

Upon entering, there was not a single table occupied. Uh-oh, we thought and exchanged meaningful piercing stares, willing the other to take remedial action. But we didn't dare retreat.
Once we got down to the business of ordering however, we decided to be charmed by our own memories of pristine white Ao-dais and wonderful meals in Vietnam some years ago. No Ao-dai'd waitresses in sight here though, so the meal would have to suffice.

We start with the prawn Summer Rolls (Nem Saigon). The rolls were bursting with fresh ingredients, and even the rice paper wrap was up to par. The sauce was a little thin though.

I'd gotten giddily excited when I saw the Royal Pancake (Banh Xeo) in the menu, having just recalled one particular sumptuous meal we'd had in Hue, after being soaked to the bone from the torrential rain at the famed Citadel. The pancake as part of that meal remains one of my fondest Vietnamnese memories. Du Viet's version, even with the absence of the pork traditionally used for this dish, passed the test just nicely, resurrecting the long-shelved promise of returning to that city.

The Vietnamnese Noodle Salad (Vegetarian) was so-so, great for filling up on fresh vegetables and the very generous use of fried beancurd! Apparently, the Vietnamnese makes vegetarianism an art form, but there's nothing arty about this.

The Vietnamnese Stir Fried Seafood Noodles was also a let-down, its gravy a sickly sweet concoction that really shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a noodle dish. They used plenty of seafood but the fish slices had definitely just been put through a major defrosting chamber!

Hard to go wrong with the Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Chop with Rice. Any self-respecting Vietnamnese outlet would have this down pat at the very least, together with the phos. The chicken thigh was beautifully done, fragrant and tender.

I had some Ginger Lemon Tea. Hot and comforting, after a grizzly day out in the sun on the Klang Valley real estate trail.

Some hits and some misses... I tend to find Vietnamnese outlets put a great deal more effort into their starters than their mains so I should stick to ordering just those next time. The restaurant quietly filled with more patrons during the course of our meal but still, it was barely a quarter full when we left at about 930PM. Which begs the question, at what point does a restaurant tip over from merely surviving to struggling?

Friday, June 5, 2009

White (Fright) Night at Bianco, Damansara Perdana

I've never been very good with the Horror genre. Not even when they were just exercises in exaggeration & theatrics around a fire. So it was unfortunate that my first visit to Bianco happened to be the evening when both my cheerful companions decided to share some "real-life" horror stories, one of which involved an other-worldly inhabitant in a unit in the Tropics itself, right above where the restaurant was snugly located. GULP.
Thankfully, the food, ambience and service were delightful enough to distract me (but just barely) from the night ahead, when all these stories will come back to taunt me and my faint-hearted sleep.

Arancini di formaggi - Rice & Ricotta fritters, served with a robust tomato-based sauce. Red and lustful, like blood vampires hunt. Pulpy like the gory disembowelled insides of the victim of an Eli Roth flesh-eating zombie.

We decide to split two pizzas - Marinara & Gambretto. We were told the crust would be very thin and crispy, so they would work out to be nice portions for the three of us.

The marinara arrived with plenty of sumptuos offerings from the ocean. The ocean, where vicious sharks and underwater ghouls live.

We went with the waitress' suggestion to top up our Gambretto with rocket and it came with sparse dashing of balsamic vinegar, which provided a wicked contrast to the sweetness of the chilli prawn & olive topping.

I liked the crust, but I thought it was missing that hint of smoke. Still overall a good pizza meal, the unsettling story-telling notwithstanding.

House White Chilean. Wish there'd been a wine list to speak of but we didn't see one. This was OK enough for us to open two bottles, but more so from the lack of choice than anything else.

The meal came up to a mere RM216 for the 3 of us; we thought it was well value for money.

Bianco's also offering an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch for a stunning RM25++ per pax, on the last Sunday of each month from 12PM to 5PM. The menu looks promising, pizzas, pastas & antipasti galore. Going to try come back here for that - perhaps the best part is that it would be in broad daylight, and I wouldn't have to worry about battling the nocturnal heebies-jeebies after!